by Sharon Felton, Minister to Students
Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown
We have a bully in the state and the nation. It goes by the name of payday lending. We teach our children not to be bullies and to stand up to them when we encounter them. It is time to stand up to the payday bullies and take up for those caught in their debt traps. People who are mired in debt and broken down with life crises are often unable to get out of the traps in which they find themselves. It is up to the church to take a stand for them and not only help lift them up out of despair, but also to stop the practices that pushed them down into the abyss.
We must act now to cap payday interest rates and stop the direct access lenders have to borrower’s accounts. We must limit the number of loans a person can take out in a year and we must motivate our legislators to act now. It is our calling, our responsibility, and our command from God to care for those who are hurting. We must act with justice and kindness today.
Christ teaches us in the parable of the Good Samaritan to take care of our neighbor no matter what. We have neighbors in Kentucky who have been beaten down by various circumstances in life--some a result of poor decisions, others simply life happening. Whatever the cause, there are people in need and it is our responsibility as Christians to reach out and help them.
Payday lending loans only add to the beat down. When people are struggling, in crisis, the last thing they need is to be taken advantage of, preyed upon, and caught in a cycle of debt. Exorbitant interest rates (391% average in Kentucky), the ability to take out as many loans as you choose (average 10 a year in KY), excessive fees, and automatic access to borrowers checking accounts drive up profits for the payday lenders while crushing those who are already broken down. Helping the poor become poorer is not what our state should be about and our churches need to come together to be the voice for those who are in these dire circumstances.
We must let our voices be heard: “No more debt traps!” We don’t want to be a state that allows people to take advantage of the poor and down trodden. We want to be about providing opportunities for people to succeed, to feed their families, to earn a fair wage and have a decent living. When people get out of the payday debt trap, they are able to provide for their families, contribute to the local economy, and then, in turn, help others. We need to be about lifting people up, bandaging their wounds, and helping them heal. Let’s take care of vulnerable children and families and put a cap on payday lending practices.
What else can churches do to help? Partner with other congregations and credit unions to provide low interest loans. Churches can offer financial counseling before, during, and after loans are taken out. Reach out and help people struggling with payday loans. Listen. Listen to people who are hurting and hear their stories. Challenge congregants to advocate for those in their community who have been caught in the traps of payday lending. Call, write, email and visit legislators and motivate them to act on these issues for our state and our nation.
Click here to find your representative and their contact information to contact them about payday lending.